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[U] In re of N.J.-D.

Superior Court of Pennsylvania

January 31, 2014

IN THE INTEREST OF: N.J.-D., A MINOR
v.
APPEAL OF: A.M. AND R.M., FOSTER PARENTS IN THE INTEREST OF: D.J., A MINOR APPEAL OF: A.M. AND R.M., FOSTER PARENTS IN THE INTEREST OF: H.R., A MINOR APPEAL OF: A.M. AND R.M., FOSTER PARENTS IN THE INTEREST OF: I.R., A MINOR APPEAL OF: A.M. AND R.M., FOSTER PARENTS

NON-PRECEDENTIAL DECISION

Appeal from the Order Entered June 26, 2013, In the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County, Juvenile Division, at Nos. CP-36-DP-0000122-2010, CP-36-DP-0000114-2010, CP-36-DP-0000115-2010, CP-36-DP-0000177-2010.

BEFORE: DONOHUE, SHOGAN and MUSMANNO, JJ.

MEMORANDUM

SHOGAN, J.

A.M. and her husband R.M. ("Foster Parents"), the former foster parents of the four subject children, N.J.-D., D.J., H.R., and I.R. ("the Children"), appeal from the orders entered on June 26, 2013, allowing the Children, who had been adjudicated dependent under section 6302 of the Juvenile Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 6302, to be relocated to their current pre-adoptive placement. We affirm.

In its opinion entered on August 22, 2013, the trial court set forth the procedural history of this appeal, which we adopt as this Court's own. Trial Court Opinion, 8/22/13, at 1-2. Importantly, D.J., N.J.-D., and H.R. were adjudicated dependent on August 31, 2010, and were placed with Foster Parents in November of 2010, prior to the birth of I.R. Id. at 1. I.R. was placed with Foster Parents after his birth. Id. at 1 n.1. The Children remained in placement with Foster Parents until May 31, 2013, when they were removed, after Lancaster County Children and Youth Social Service Agency ("the Agency") received reports of abusive conduct and domestic violence in the home. Id. at 2. After spending a few weeks in respite care, the Children then were placed in their present pre-adoptive home. Id. at 2, n.4. Thereafter, on June 26, 2013, the Agency filed a motion for modification of child's placement. Id. at 2. In the motion, the Agency stated that the Children had previously visited with their new resource family in the fall of 2011 as a potential adoptive resource, and that their guardian ad litem was in agreement with the change in placement. Id. Without holding a hearing on the matter, on June 26, 2013, the same date that the Agency presented the motion to the trial court, the trial court entered the orders granting the modification in the placement of the Children and continuing legal custody with the Agency. Id. at 1-2.

On July 26, 2013, Foster Parents timely filed notices of appeal from the trial court's orders and a concise statement of errors complained of on appeal pursuant to 1925(a)(2)(i) and (b).[1] This Court, sua sponte, consolidated the appeals on August 14, 2013.

Foster Parents raise the following issues for our review:
1. Were [Foster Parents] advised of the right to be present at the Hearing which created the June 26, 2013 order which resulted in the removal of their Foster Children?
2. Were [Foster Parents'] vested due process rights violated when they were not given an opportunity to present information to the court before the entry of the order dated June 26, 2013 which resulted in the removal of their Foster Children?

Foster Parents' Brief at 4.

Foster Parents contend that the trial court erred in its application of section 6336.1 of the Juvenile Act. Foster Parents argue that Pennsylvania Rule of Juvenile Court Procedure ("Pa.R.J.C.P.") 1606 required the trial court to hold a hearing on the modification of the Children's placement because there was no stipulation to the relocation. Foster Parents assert that they were deprived of their constitutional guarantee to due process of law because they were not provided with notice of the presentation of the motion, so that they could object with an opportunity to be heard at a hearing, or with an opportunity to seek redress of their grievances through an administrative appeal to the Department of Public Welfare ("the DPW") under 55 Pa.Code § 3700.73(a)(2).[2]

Our Supreme Court set forth our standard of review for dependency cases as follows:

[T]he standard of review in dependency cases requires an appellate court to accept the findings of fact and credibility determinations of the trial court if they are supported by the record, but does not require the appellate court to accept the lower court's inferences or ...

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